Lee, Kang join nat’l team training

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Lee, Kang join nat’l team training


Valencia CF’s Lee Kang-in, left, and Paik Seung-ho of Girona FC pose for a photo ahead of national team training at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

Valencia CF’s Korean prospect Lee Kang-in said Tuesday he will prepare for the upcoming international football matches with a learner’s mindset.

Lee, 18, became the seventh-youngest Korean to earn senior national football team selection when head coach Paulo Bento included his name on the 27-player roster for international friendly matches this month. Korea will host Bolivia in Ulsan on Friday and will take on Colombia in Seoul next Tuesday.

“I didn’t expect a call-up, but I’m so happy I got this good opportunity,” Lee told reporters at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi. “I’m happy that I can play football with good players on the same team. I’ll do my best with a learner’s mindset.”

If Lee makes his senior national team debut against Bolivia, he will be the third-youngest Korean after Kim Pan-geun and Kim Bong-soo to play in an international match.

Despite big attention from fans and media, Lee said he isn’t feeling heavy pressure.

“I just want to thank people for having a lot of interest in me,” he said. “I will do my best and play a good game.”

Lee, who joined Valencia’s youth system in 2011, has been considered one of the future stars by Korean football fans.

Lee made his Valencia first-team debut in October 2018. He then became Valencia’s youngest foreign player to make a Spanish La Liga debut on Jan. 12 when he played as a second-half substitute against Real Valladolid.

“I feel happy that I was able to get an opportunity with the first team [of Valencia],” he said. “After I go back to Spain, I will try to play more games.”

Lee said he received congratulatory messages from his Valencia teammates and coach Marcelino Garcia Toral after being selected for the national team.

“They just told me to play a good game,” he said. “Being a national team member was my childhood dream. I’m so happy that I made it.”

Lee has not been in first-team action since Valencia played against Celtic at the UEFA Europa League on Feb. 21. However, Lee said he is in a good shape.

“I trained and played some practice matches at Valencia,” he said. “I feel great.”

Lee, who can play both wing and center, said he prefers to perform as an attacking midfielder, but whichever position, the Korean starlet said he wants to help the Taeguk Warriors.

“If I get a chance, I will play for the team and play for the team’s victory,” he said.

With fellow Spanish La Liga player Lee, Paik Seung-ho of Girona FC is also looking to his international debut this month. He had seven goals with the under-20 team but has yet to represent Korea at the senior level.

“I was happy that I made the national team with Lee,” he said. “We just talked about how we should play well.”

Paik said his first goal is to play in a match for the national team in the upcoming days.

“Every minute, every effort is important,” he said. “The national team is something I’ve always dreamed of, so I will work hard and will try to play a game.”

With his first senior national team selection, Paik reunited with his former teammates from the under-20 team - Lee Seung-woo and Lee Jin-hyun - who played together at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

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